Internships; Get Proactive, Get the Job

Maxine Johnson is in her Fourth Year at Exeter, studying BA Politics, German and Chinese. She talked to us about her internship with global law firm Baker & McKenzie in Hong Kong, and the impact it had on finding a graduate job.

Maxine (centre) and intern colleagues at Baker & McKenzie, Hong Kong
Maxine (centre) and intern colleagues at Baker & McKenzie, Hong Kong

So how did you find your internship?

I found it through my Career Mentor, Susan Kendall, who I networked extensively with through my First and Second years at Exeter. We Skyped regularly, obviously she’s based in Hong Kong, and I got put in touch with the graduate recruitment team who then enabled me to apply to their summer internship programme.

What was the application process like?

It was actually quite standard; I had to send a CV and covering letter to recruitment, but my mentor already knew I had a strong interest in commercial law from Skyping her. Graduate recruitment rang me and asked a couple of questions, and then we had quite a few phone calls regarding visas and that sort of thing.

What kind of work did you do for them?

I turned up on my first day as a non-law student at a law firm expecting to be given just general making tea and coffee tasks; it was definitely not like that at all. I went straight in and sat-in on client phone calls and meetings, and attended court sessions with the solicitors. I was shown the Law Library with no explanation of how to use it; they said ‘Maxine go and find this area of particular insurance law and come back with the exact legal wording of the definition. To which I said ‘ok, that’s fine I’ll do that’. And I did. It was all commercial law based, but I was in the dispute resolution team, so that covered a wide variety of areas such as fraud, insurance, and employment law.

“I could get what I wanted from the internship; if I wanted to stay longer hours and do more work, which I did because I loved it, then I could.”

So it wasn’t quite like you expected?

Not at all. I genuinely wasn’t sure how much I’d be able to help them, never having studied law. Although I did do a 3 week law course here at Exeter before I went which taught me some basic legal knowledge that was incredibly useful. I could get what I wanted from it; if I wanted to stay longer hours and do more work, which I did because I loved it, then I could do, but there was no obligation to do that. I was working on real-life cases, often for big-name firms, but at the same time you had to be proactive, you did have to go and say ‘I haven’t got any work to do right now, can you give me something to do?’ And if they say no, then you go and ask someone else.

Do you think your internship helped you get your graduate job?

Absolutely, I 100% believe that. I’ve got a Training Contract offer with Clifford Chance who find the fact that I got the internship almost as impressive as the work I did while I was there. Being able to talk about my experiences not only helped with the application form, video interview, and 3-day assessment process, but also proved I had a real understanding of and interest in the work.

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